CHI02LA169
CHI02LA169

On June 16, 2002, at 2000 central daylight time, a Lindstrand Balloons 90A, N40051, owned and piloted by a commercial pilot, made a hard and fast landing near Mukwonago, Wisconsin. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The 14 CFR Part 91 flight was not operating on a flight plan. The pilot and one passenger received minor injuries, and the second passenger received serious injuries. The flight originated near Waukesha, Wisconsin at 1920.

At 1500, the pilot reportedly checked the weather forecast which indicated that any possible convective activity would be to the north of the area by 1800, and winds would diminish to 3 knots by 2000. He called his passengers to tell them that he put them on standby for the flight and that he would check the weather again at 1600. He checked the weather again after 1600 and stated that he received a favorable forecast. The current conditions were clear with winds reported around 10-12 knots. He consulted with a another pilot who was also going to fly that afternoon. According to the accident pilot, they both agreed that, though the current conditions appeared marginal, it was 'too close to call' at that hour. He contacted the passengers again and told them that they may not fly, but the decision would be made when they were at the launch site, which was located about 10 miles southwest of the pilot's house. He launched two pibals from his house in order to check wind speed and direction. At 1810, the first pibal was released and reportedly headed toward 120-130 degrees about 12 knots. At 18:30, the second pibal was released and reportedly traveled in the same direction at a slower speed.

On the drive to the launch site, the pilot noticed darkening skies and some clouds to the northwest. He stated the, "It raised concern to me, so I contacted flight service via cell phone..." to obtain an updated weather briefing. He stated that the briefer told him that the winds were being reported around the area to 130 at 8-10 knots and that winds to the west at Madison, Wisconsin, and Watertown, Wisconsin, were 130 at 5-8 knots. He asked about darkening skies and was reportedly told that nothing was there. The pilot further stated that "radar detected precipitation near Wisconsin Dells, moving east."

At 1920, the balloon launched from the North Prairie Village Park, Waukesha, Wisconsin. At 500 feet above ground level (AGL), he noted that his GPS was indicating 120 degrees at 10-12 knots, At 1,000 feet AGL, the speed and direction were little changed. He then descended to 200 feet agl. At 1950, he felt a breeze on his face and noticed the wind direction changed to about 190 degrees, and they slowed down. He said they "just about stopped" and the wind direction changed to about 270 degrees. As he progressed west, he noticed flags on the ground to be draped and also a rustling of trees in some areas. He began an ascent to 400 feet AGL to clear power lines. At that time, his GPS indicated 270 at 15 mph. He informed his passengers that he was going to descend to the tree tops and look for a landing spot. The pilot stated that he encountered a gust and got pushed into a tree line during an approach to landing on a hayfield. He heated the balloon to get through the trees and leveled off about 300 feet AGL. His GPS was now indicating about 12 mph. He then told his passengers that they had to prepare for a "fast landing." He spotted a field in front of him. He estimated that they were traveling at 12-15 mph (12-15 knots was also stated by the pilot). At 20-30 feet AGL, he opened the parachute top with the deflation line. The initial impact was "quite hard, the balloon rebounded, hit again and tipped on its side." The balloon came to a stop about 100 yards from initial impact.

At 1958, Nexrad radar recorded an area of convective activity about 24 miles west of the accident site.




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